Posts Tagged ‘9:30 Club’

Four recent challenges

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013


I shot four concerts in four different venues recently, and encountered four challenges which can briefly be summed up as: crappy light, crappy light, crappy light, and crappy light. Case in point: the above photo of local metal band LTW at the Black Cat backstage, the EXIF data of which reads: ISO 12800, f/1.4, 1/30s shutter.

OK, to some extent this is an exaggeration for effect. In fact, for a minute or two I got to shoot at Empire (formerly Jaxx) at ISO 400, which is utterly unheard-of. But aside from a few isolated moments, each of these four concerts had some severe challenges on the lighting side. I’m not complaining – this is pretty standard fare for concert photography – I was mostly just looking for a way to post about four completely different shows all in one post, and this is the best my feeble mind could do. In reverse chronological order, here’s a super quick recap of those four shows – one photo per band.

Last night (in descending order below): Coheed and Cambria, Between the Buried and Me and Russian Circles at the 9:30 Club. I was excited about this mostly because the last time I shot Coheed I got an unforgettable photo. But I’d forgotten how tough a shoot it was – all dim light with lots of strobes. Same deal last night, except for Russian Circles, who literally played with zero frontlight. Here’s the full set.

Coheed & Cambria

Between the Buried and Me

Russian Circles

Last Sunday: Doro, Sister Sin and A Sound of Thunder at Empire. Doro had a spotlight on her for much of the show, which was a huge surprise to me, not having shot at this venue since it was Jaxx. But the rest of her band was in the dark recesses, which made wide shots hard. The light for local openers A Sound of Thunder was pretty tremendous, though. Here’s the full set.


Sister Sin

A Sound of Thunder

Last Saturday: Duos Buke and Gase and Ahleuchatistas at DC9. The light here was actually better than I remember it, but again, super uneven light across the stage made it hard to get both performers in one nicely exposed photo. Here’s the full set.

Buke and Gase


Finally, last month was Jucifer and LTW (who are pictured at the top of this post) at the Black Cat backstage. Jucifer always plays in the dark, and LTW made things complicated by only having their drummer onstage, with the other two band members on the floor with the crowd – where, of course, there’s no light. That was a fun show, nevertheless. The below shot of Jucifer isn’t very good, but I like how it shows that Jucifer’s monstrous rig takes up literally half of the stage real estate. Here’s the full set.


Delta Rae: pleasant and unpleasant surprises

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

Delta Rae

Last year, North Carolina’s Delta Rae were playing tiny venues like 7th Street Entry in Minneapolis, and not even coming close to selling them out. Fast-forward to 2013, and they’re playing to a capacity crowd at the 1,200-person 9:30 Club in DC, and looking so comfortable onstage that you might think they’ve been playing arenas for years. The pleasant surprise referred to in this post’s title was Delta Rae’s performing chops: they stunned me with how much better they were in concert compared to their record. The band has boundless energy and it’s put to good use, not just in the stage show but also in the music: every song sounded more powerful and convincing live than on record.

The unpleasant surprise, though, was the lighting. I expected the beautiful lighting treatment that most non-metal bands get at the 9:30 Club. Instead, the lighting was all deep color washes and intense strobing backlights, only occasionally augmented by some very dim incandescent frontlighting. Very challenging shoot to say the least, but the band more than made up for it. You can’t go wrong with six people completely freaking out onstage, no matter what the lights look like.

Still, I’d love to shoot this band again sometime with some nice white frontlights. I got zero shots with catchlights in the eyes. That’s a bummer.

Check out the full set at Flickr for more, plus photos of the openers, The Wild Feathers and Jillette Johnson.

Delta Rae

Delta Rae

Delta Rae

Delta Rae

Delta Rae

Delta Rae

Delta Rae

Delta Rae

Delta Rae

The “Last 15 Minutes” Rule

Thursday, May 14th, 2009

Mastodon 20

I shot Mastodon, Kylesa and Intronaut at the 9:30 Club earlier this week. I love the latter two bands and I, uh, used to love Mastodon (until they went all Dream Theater). It was a great show to shoot. I and the other photogs there were able to shoot for the whole set – from the pit or anywhere else in the club – for the opening bands, which was great. Kind of unnecessary for Intronaut because they just stand there, but Kylesa were energetic and fun and I was really happy to stay in the pit for their whole show. For Mastodon, we got… the last 15 minutes. Very weird. We were told to come to the pit at 10:45, for the last few songs of the set (there was no encore).

I think this is kind of a great idea in general. For most bands, during a good performance the last few songs are going to be much more energetic than the first three, with more potential for onstage antics, crowd interaction and other general zaniness. Unfortunately there wasn’t much in the way of zaniness at this show, but there was Brent Hinds lifting his guitar to the sky and saluting the audience at the end of the show (above), which was not a shot I would have gotten during the first three songs. Cool.

Here’s the full photoset.

Katy Perry, or, why shooting in RAW rocks

Thursday, April 16th, 2009

Katy Perry 01

I figured a Katy Perry show would be pretty entertaining and fun to shoot, so last Friday I went to the 9:30 Club to put in my two songs’ worth of work. Despite an overly packed photo pit (seven photographers plus three security guards) in which none of us were really able to move around at all, I had a blast and got some good shots. Ms. Perry is a dynamic performer, but what also helped was the lighting: a bright white spotlight shining from the back of the venue tracked her every move for the whole set. If only rock bands would do this!

Katy Perry 18

So I was at ISO 800, f/2.8, shutter speeds 1/250th and higher. The headline photo, though, is a concise answer to the question “Why shoot concerts in RAW?” Before Perry made her leaping grand entrance, the stage was pretty dark and I was locked in at ISO 1600, f/2.8, 1/125 – my default settings when I don’t know what to expect. When she came running onstage I had absolutely no time for anything other than raising the camera to my face and firing away. The resulting photos were 1-2 stops overexposed, because as she came onstage, that spotlight came on and lit her up big-time. I was able to drop the exposure in post and get usable shots that preserved detail in the highlights, something that would have been impossible if I’d been shooting JPEG. (This photo was even more blown out, but still salvageable.)

It’s still not a great photo because of the angle and that damn mic stand, but I’m happy I caught the moment. I’m not sure anyone else there did, it was such a sudden and largely unexpected entrance (she hit the stage from the opposite side from where her band came on). I hope one of the 3-4 photogs on the other side of the mic stand, who had a totally perfect view of this happening, caught it, but I haven’t seen anything yet. The other problem is that catching it would have required a relatively wide lens and I think I saw some fast 50s on that side of the pit, which, as close as we were to the action, would have made a good shot of this almost impossible.

Katy Perry 08

Anyway, after that entrance, the rest of the two songs were relatively pedestrian, especially the second song, when Perry played a guitar, which limited her freedom to bounce around the stage. Still, the lighting was so great that I got some wonderful shots. White light on the performer + colored washes in the background + a touch of fog = perfect lighting as far as I’m concerned.

Here’s the full set.

I love this shot

Monday, February 9th, 2009

Salome 01

I don’t really feel the need to blog about every concert I photograph, especially not ones that don’t pose any particularly novel shooting conditions or challenges. But in this case I’d just like to post one photo from a show I went to last Saturday. This was a throwaway shot I took just before Salome started their set at the 9:30 Club, lit by nothing but dim red light. It was just a quick test photo I took to check my settings (notice the EXIF data: ISO 3200, f/2.8, 1/125 – my default initial settings for dim shows, and I adjust from there), but it came out great. Very appropriate for their sound. If anything, the rest of that photoset is too colorful; black & white suits them better I think.